Packs of menthol cigarettes are seen in this 2018 file photo.
CNN  — 

In the lead-up to the South Carolina primary, a conservative group is eyeing the state as a valuable testing ground for messages opposing the US Food and Drug Administration’s proposed menthol cigarette ban, something they hope will chip away at President Joe Biden’s Black vote.

The Liberty Policy Foundation, a conservative advocacy group, plans on launching an aggressive ad campaign in South Carolina to see whether it can sway some public opinion against Biden and Democrats, according to a Republican strategist working with the group.

The ads rolled out on digital platforms Wednesday morning.

The ad campaign is targeting three groups, the strategist said: African Americans who disapprove of Biden and think he has been ineffective as president, small business owners and young Americans who lean independent.

The Liberty Policy Foundation sees the ads as a “high priority because we can test how or if it moves voters for the primary,” the strategist told CNN.

Republicans and conservative groups are trying to determine whether leveraging this issue can influence voter behavior and reduce the president’s vote count. Republicans are seeking to capitalize on what polls show is a dip in Biden’s support and enthusiasm among Democratic voters by potentially turning the proposed ban into a wedge issue in the 2024 election.

The strategist said the group is launching a mid-six-figure ad campaign in South Carolina followed by four other states a week later: North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and Michigan, which are seen as potential swing states in a general presidential election.

Biden has yet to decide on whether to approve the FDA’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes, which health advocates say would save hundreds of thousands of Black lives, but which could also be unpopular with some Black voters.

Menthol cigarettes are the preferred cigarette among many Black smokers after the tobacco industry heavily marketed menthols in the Black community for decades. Menthol cigarettes continue to be widely available and priced cheaper in Black communities, according to the nonprofit advocacy group, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

CNN viewed the ad that’s set to run in the South Carolina market, which features a woman in a voiceover. “President Biden keeps talking about uniting Americans, bringing us together, so why is he pushing policies that continue to divide us? Like his proposal to criminalize menthol cigarettes. Community leaders have warned Biden about the unintended consequences of banning menthol cigarettes.” The ad shows headlines related to Eric Garner, who died after police held him in a chokehold. Police initially confronted Garner for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally.

Some civil rights leaders with ties to the tobacco industry have raised concerns with the White House that a ban would criminalize menthol cigarettes and lead to an increase in deadly police interactions.

The proposed menthol ban explicitly states it would solely be aimed at cigarette manufacturers and retailers, not individuals.

Other groups, such as the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus, support the proposed menthol cigarette ban.

In a report issued on Wednesday, the American Lung Association called for the Biden administration to act “swiftly” on the proposed ban.

“Menthol cigarettes make it both easier to start and harder to quit by reducing the harshness of the smoke and cooling the throat,” notes the association’s annual State of Tobacco Control report. Researchers estimate that a regulation banning menthol cigarettes would save about 654,000 lives over the next 40 years, especially those of Black smokers, who are disproportionately more likely to smoke menthols.